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Originally airing in the afternoon in 1966 as a half hour "Gothic" soap
opera then a few months later morphing into pure supernatural story
telling, Dark Shadows is unique in American television. Though not
'run' live, the show was taped with almost no interruptions so it
'felt' live. Only the most catastrophic of events would cause producers
to re-shoot a scene. The show is famous for the occasional slip-up:
crew visible on screen, a boom-mike shown above the actors' heads,
actors struggling to remember their lines or actors calling another
character by their wrong name. Still , this only helped to give the
show a theatrical feel, as if you were sitting in the audience watching
a live piece of theatre which consequently endowed the show a certain
prestige that typical soap operas never achieved. Former movie star
Joan Bennett, headlined the show as the Collin's family matriarch,
Elizabeth Collins Stoddard. Ms. Bennett's 'old' Hollywood trained voice
& poise gave the show glamour. Many of the jeweled baubles Ms. Bennett
wore on the show were the real thing from Ms. Bennett's private
collection. Closing credits of the shows always had.."Fashions by
Orbachs.." The show is great for, if nothing else, a study in late 60s
early 70s fashion sensibilities. From Ms. Bennett's upswept hairdos &
flowing chiffon dresses or tailored skirt/blouse 'sets' to the younger
womens' minis & long flip hair styles, the show's a veritable time
capsule of retro chic. But the show is so much more than its fashion.
The show is a true American Gothic original.
The Collins family live in the coastal town of Collinsport, somewhere on the coast of Maine. The Collins have money & breeding. The initial modern Collins family was not a traditional nuclear family. There was Elizabeth Collins Stoddard & her grown, 20something daughter Carolyn, played by Nancy Barrett who lived on the family estate/mansion Collinwood. Mr. Stoddard, mysteriously missing for twenty years or so, is presumed dead. They share the estate with Mrs. Stoddard's brother, Roger Collins, played by Louis Edmonds & his young pre-teen son, David, played by David Henesy. Roger Collins's wife, Laura (Diana Millay) has recently died in a fire. As the series opens, we are introduced to the character Victoria Winters, played by Alexandra Moltke, raised an orphan on her way to her new position as governess to young David at Collinwood. Each show would begin with a shot of the impressive mansion Collinwood, bathed in moody lighting, while Victoria Winters' voice eerily introduced themes of mystery & secrets hopefully to be revealed on that day's episodes while Dark Shadows' famous theme music played in the background. As the shows progressed over the first few months from mystery Gothic to supernatural suspense we are introduced to the character of Barnabas Collins played by Jonathan Frid. Mr. Collins represents himself to the family as a distant cousin newly arrived from England. Hanging in the entry hall, is a portrait of the original Barnabas Collins from the 1700s, which bears a striking resemblance to the newly arrived cousin. We as the audience know that they are one in the same & that Barnabas Collins is a member of the undead, a vampire who has been imprisoned in a chained coffin for over two hundred years & who has only just recently escaped. Story lines would go back in time, revealing how Barnabas became a vampire by an evil curse from witch Angelique (Lara Parker), a maid of French Caribbean descent. Angelique, in the service of Josette Dupres (Kathryn Leigh Scott), Barnabas's true love, was jealous of the love Barnabas had for Josette. So she cursed Barnabas with the curse of vampirism. Josette herself would reach an untimely death at the edge of Widow's Hill overlooking the rocky shoreline hundreds of feet below. Later back in modern time, Roger Collins will bring home as his new bride, Cassandra, a woman who looks amazingly like the Angelique from the 1700s. Soon we learn that it is in fact the immortal Angelique still seeking either love or revenge from her spurned lover Barnabas. Meanwhile, Barnabas has met a young woman in the village of Collinsport, a Maggie Evans (Kathryn Leigh Scott) who reminds Barnabas very much of his beloved Josette. He soon kidnaps Maggie and tries to turn her into his long lost Josette. Along the way Collinwood becomes haunted by the spirit of long lost relative Quentin Collins (David Selby). Completing the major characters of the show was Dr. Julia Hoffman, (Grayson Hall), a woman committed to transforming Barnabas by scientific (or supernatural if necessary), means back to a normal man. Their friendship (and her secret love for Barnabas) would form one of the shows' main plot lines.
The show moved slowly and deliberately & revelled in it's Gothic, supernatural feel. It was in no hurry to move from storyline to storyline. Instead, it relied on shadows, mysteries, lightening, candlelight, vampires who longed for the brightness of the sun and witches pining for love. In an era of MTV and commercials, Dark Shadows is our television equivalent to Jane Austen & Edgar Allen Poe.
To its fans, Dark Shadows was and remains the best fantasy television
series ever produced for an American network. Its status as the best
resulted from the chance interaction of a team of brilliant actors,
directors and producers who together made magic every afternoon at 4 pm
of what were often very unpromising materials. As the comment from a new
teenaged viewer on this page shows, the show's appeal continues to draw in
new audience 30 years after its original broadcast.
Barnabas Collins, the pivotal character of the "vulnerable vampire," has become a part of postmodern folklore. The influence of Barnabas as a character and a concept has been widely seen, from Anne Rice's vampire novels to such recent cult series as Forever Knight and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The central drama of Dark Shadows--a doctor in unrequited love with her vampire patient, whom she was trying to cure--was intriguingly reprised in the Canadian series Forever Knight, with Geraint Wyn-Davies and Catherine Disher taking on the roles originally played by Jonathan Frid and Grayson Hall.
Dark Shadows boasted perhaps the most impressive cast (in terms of sheer ability) ever assembled for an American daytime series. Actress Joan Bennett who played the matriarch provided a link with the world of film noir and Forties Gothic cinema upon which the style and mood of the series so clearly played. Jonathan Frid, Thayer David, the extraordinary Grayson Hall (probably the first instance of an Oscar nominated thesp taking a role in a soap opera), Nancy Barrett, Louis Edmonds, and John Karlen, all of whom had distinguished themselves both on and off Broadway, routinely turned in sterling performances with a minimum of rehearsal time. The show's initial realism gave way after a year or so to the "Dark Shadows school of acting"--a highly theatrical, dramatically stylised manner of putting the mood of a scene across with stunning effect. Among the newcomers who shone most strongly were Lara Parker (who enacted another variant of vindictive unrequited love as the witch Angelique), Alexandra Moltke as perennially clueless governess Victoria Winters, Don Briscoe as doomed werewolf Chris Jennings, and David Selby as roguish cousin Quentin Collins. One striking feature of the production was the use of multiple time periods and, ultimately, parallel time streams which allowed the actors to portray a wide variety of roles (Nancy Barrett and Thayer David each ended up playing some half a dozen sharply differentiated characters).
The New York production setting favored the occasional introduction of such veteran character actors as Anita Bolster, Cavada Humphrey, Abe Vigoda, and others in cameo spots. Young actors just starting out such as Harvey Keitel, David Groh, Kate Jackson, Virginia Vestoff, and Marsha Mason found brief or steady work on the series. Vestoff did a tour de force as the ruthless Samantha Collins at the same time (1970) as she was performing nightly in the hit musical 1776.
Derided by some, misunderstood by many, beloved by its legions of fans, Dark Shadows will never die!
This daytime television soaper-shocker serial has evolved into a cult classic since originally airing on ABC from 1966-71, and is certainly a contender for one of the most unusual television series ever made. In addition to its Gothic tales involving the supernatural, what set DARK SHADOWS apart from the other TV soap operas of its day was the remarkable cast, including famous and glamorous Hollywood screen star Joan Bennett as the aristocratic matriarch Elizabeth Collins Stoddard, Oscar-nominated actress Grayson Hall(THE NIGHT OF THE IGUANA) as Dr. Julia Hoffman who tried to develop a cure for vampire Barnabas Collins but wound up falling in love with him instead. And of course, the superb Jonathan Frid as reluctant vampire Barnabas Collins himself. Incidentally, Frid's perpetually tormented character was what brought the show such tremendous success and remains the best remembered aspect of this enduringly popular series. Made on a noticeably low budget, DARK SHADOWS concentrated on plot and character rather than cheap thrills, though there were plenty of eerie, spooky moments and creepy Gothic atmosphere. The primetime revival of the ever-popular series in 1991 featured more elaborate settings and special effects but was less successful and lasted barely two months on the airwaves. Like it or not, DARK SHADOWS completely changed television history and remains one of the most well-remembered TV series of all time. The show's success led to two offshoot feature films starring a number of the series regulars. The first and most successful was HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS in 1970, followed by NIGHT OF DARK SHADOWS in 1971.
Warning: Soap operas are habit-forming, and this is about the most
addictive one ever filmed. Dark Shadows, the daytime serial which ran
in the 1960s broke new ground to say the least. A vampire (Barnabas
Collins) is released after a 170 year imprisonment to wreak havoc on
his old stomping grounds. There's witchcraft, ghosts, romance,
unrequited love, bodies buried in the cellar, duels to the death,
werewolves....Any one of these elements is enough to build a story on.
Put them all together and you've started a new religion. No wonder DS
had such a dedicated cult following. Now it's back, released on DVD and
unless I'm badly mistaken a whole new generation is out there getting
hooked on this crazy show. The old B&W episodes are fun to watch and
the restored color programs look better than ever.
This show is well worth restoring. One reason; never before or since have so many gorgeous actresses been gathered together in one place. For us guys that alone makes it worth a look. Lara Parker is stunningly beautiful as Angelique. Kathryn Leigh Scott (Maggie Evans) came to the series from Hugh Hefner's Playboy Club. Need I say more? Nancy Barrett (Carolyn) is a blonde bombshell in her own right. And we certainly can't leave out Alexandra Moltke (Victoria Winters) who on a good day tops them all. No wonder the plain-looking Julia Hoffman (Grayson Hall) couldn't score with Barnabas. She had no chance against competition like that. And like any soap there are plenty of handsome hunks for the ladies to admire. David Selby, Roger Davis, Joel Crothers, and of course Jonathan Frid (Barnabas) to name a few.
Dark Shadows is remembered as being campy with lots of bloopers. You see overhead microphones, malfunctioning props, actors flubbing their lines. But this just adds to the fun. It was more like a stage play than a TV series. As a daily show with so many special effects they were in uncharted waters. They did well considering the technology available at the time. On a limited budget they even had to borrow equipment from other sets on occasion. As the star, Jonathan Frid was carrying a tremendous workload. He rarely got enough sleep so he was bound to flub now and then. Some days even without makeup he probably looked like one of the undead.
For those of us over 40 seeing these shows again is like going to a reunion. The DVD set includes interviews with the surviving and now much older actors, a sad reminder of how much time has passed. But life goes on and vampire tales are hot stuff right now. Youngsters who are seeing all this for the first time will laugh at the bloopers. But they'll keep coming back for more. Some of the bloopers are not really bloopers at all. They're just life the way it really happens. We all flub our lines and drop things in our daily lives. And when Quentin yanks that sword off the wall, unintentionally sending a few other items crashing to the floor, well that could just as easily have been part of the script. Indeed, it might have made the scene more intense. Dark Shadows is the most far-fetched soap opera ever made. But at the same time it's the most believable because the characters stammer, stumble, and bang their heads on low hanging objects just like we do. That's why we love them. And that's why we'll always love this show.
1795- "I set a curse on you Barnabas Collins-"
1967- Dark Shadows, after being on for less than one year was on the verge
of being thrown into oblivion, forgotten and lost forever, along with a 172
year old family secret. Then quite by accident, a vampire was released from
his coffin and Television history was made!
This show, campy, and low budget(who could afford anything else 40 years ago?) became a household word along with its star attraction, Vampire Barnabas Collins. Now that it is finally on DVD, (THANK YOU, MPI VIDEO!!!!) Those who remember can return to their childhood days and relive it all again, and those who were not there, can see for themselves what made this a soap opera hit! Nowadays, most soaps focus on "who slept with who," or "who is going to overthrow a corporate bigwig" Not this show! Vampires, witches, werewolves, warlocks and ghosts rule here!
No other soap has been remembered this long and no other soap has ever made it to yearly conventions or VHS and DVD. This show is immortal as the vampire themselves. No matter how hard anti fans try to kill it, this show will always be resurrected! Dark shadows rules!
Like many people I used to rush home from grammar school to see this
Gothic soap opera. I distinctly remember being petrified of the
werewolf and running out of the room when Barnabas bit somebody.
Seeing it now it's still sort of creepy. It moves very slow (of course) and the black & white seasons are extremely dull with really pathetic special effects and threadbare settings. But when the series switched to color and started to really be popular (in 1967) it really got going. The special effects improved, the settings and costumes got more elaborate and the plot lines went barreling out of control. Also they had a good cast who played all their roles seriously. That's good, because if they had camped it up or winked at the audience it would have fallen apart.
A good, fun horror soap. It's a good thing it's available on video and DVD now.
I was a big fan of this gothic horror soap opera as a young lad, and was
delighted to find out that MPI had released the episodes on DVD.
If I were to complain, I would have to say that it is a bit disappointing that the DVD's start rather late in the series (episode 210 to be exact), with the appearance of Barnabas Collins. This is fitting, however, since he brought the show such popularity, but it is a bit remiss that MPI didn't include the prior episodes on DVD.
That being said though, the show still is great, with terrific acting. Considering the fact that the actors filmed the episodes live, so a flub or two can be overlooked. It makes actors today seem a bit untalented, because they are allowed 20 takes (which we have to see in the end .. like in Home Improvements).
But actors like Jonathan Frid, John Karlen, David Selby, etc. make this show truly memorable (and made me join the DVD club, where I am now the proud owner of my own Barnabas Collins bobblehead) :)
I never did watch the remake of the Dark Shadows series when it came out, because I personally thought that no one could replace Jonathan Frid as Barnabas Collins. However, I might have to see it just to satisfy my own personal curiousity.
This is one of my all time favorites and I am glad that it is now on DVD.
As a kid, I waited every day for 4pm for DARK SHADOWS to appear on TV.
I watched in fascination all the going ons with Barnabas the vampire, time
travel (I wanted that staircase that took you to the 19th century!) corpses
rising from their graves. When the show came to an end in 1970, it was a
The show resurfaced in the early 1980's. As an adult, I could see all the flaws, all the signals that told us, this was live television, done on a very low budget. I appreciated Director/Creator Dan Curtis and company going against all odds.
As with all soap operas, the actors in DARK SHADOW had to stretch the material (Remember they had a collective 2 hours plus every week to cover.) Many actors would repeat what the other actor just said (Example BARNABAS: "This room was once filled the scent of lilacs." GIRL (in awe...) "....the scent of lilacs!" Flaws normally covered by alternate takes came up (much of this was live TV) We saw boom mikes, camera catching the edge of set, and the most celebrated goof- a pesty fly that won't leave vampire Barnabas Collins' (Jonathan Frid) nose, while Barnabas delivers a menacing monologue. But, all in all, it was fun. A thrill. It's always great to see this old soap opera once and a while.
The series has so many memorable plot lines and had a superb cast that did a tremendous job on such a low budget. Re-takes were virtually non-existent so most of the bloopers were broadcast adding to the entertainment value of the series. The interplay between the actors was probably the best that I have ever seen in any television series. This series spawned two theatrical movies, a Broadway play and a revival series in 1991. Additionally, almost 29 years later conventions draw more fans than any other series ever made (except Star Trek) and having seen just about every episode I can understand why.
Dark Shadows was, is and always will be a joy to watch! I remember as a child seeing it in reruns and being completely enthralled with this dark world of fantasy. I will never forget it! I watch it everyday on Sci-fi at 8am and can only wish they will put it back to it's later time slot at 10. My favorite character is Quentin...he is so mysterious and handsome, devious and intelligent!!! I encourage all people who haven't had the privelege of seeing this show, or the movies or the attempt at making a new Dark Shadows(in 1990 or whatever) that they ought to watch it on Sci-fi and You will see why there are still SO MANY dedicated fans of a show that was made over 30 years ago! ENJOY
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